herald

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Guardiola is trying too hard to be the best in the world

Guardiola decided to do something different with his full backs against Sunderland. Photo: Reuters
Guardiola decided to do something different with his full backs against Sunderland. Photo: Reuters

Pep Guardiola must be careful he doesn't spend his time in the Premier League trying to prove to everyone that he is the cleverest football man on the planet.

After the opening blows of the new season, I would place him in the corner with a small dunce's hat but award top marks to Antonio Conte, José Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp.

Guardiola decided to do something different with his full backs against Sunderland and needed an own goal in the final seconds of the game to win.

He seemed to push Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy into midfield and left huge gaps at the back.

I couldn't see any justification for what Guardiola was trying to do but I remember he tried the same thing at Bayern Munich with Philipp Lahm and David Alaba, before abandoning the experiment as a bad job.

Novel

I hope Guardiola doesn't feel he must do something novel to impress everyone. He should know that there is nothing new in football.

It still is and will always be a simple game and there was plenty of evidence of that on view among the other big-name bosses starting new jobs in the Premier League this season.

I was impressed by Conte's first game and the way his team responded to his authority and his coaching.

I like the way he speaks and I liked his interview after the game.

Slaven Bilic gave a searingly honest assessment of his team too and that's what you often get when two foreign coaches clash in the Premier League.

It's only when there's an English coach involved that you'll see black turned into white and there has always been a deep antipathy towards foreign coaches among people like Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce.

Chelsea were very good against West Ham and Conte's impact on the team was very obvious.

For a start, they looked like a team and from where we were at Stamford Bridge just 12 months ago, that's a big leap forward.

He seems like a man who knows what he wants to do and won't be entertaining any fanciful notions. His players were organised and mostly disciplined, although Diego Costa continues to play right on the edge.

I must tip my hat too to Mourinho, who has put shape to Manchester United and again, from the position the team was in just three or four months ago, he has made obvious progress.

That wouldn't be hard though, it must be said. Louis van Gaal lost me completely when I heard him say that he wanted his players to pass the ball forward "and quickly".

Of all the stupid things I've heard in the game, that one is right up there at the top of the list.

Mourinho has always been a great coach and the evidence of that was plain to see in the way United faced and dealt with a lesser team like Bournemouth comfortably, which van Gaal failed to do with any consistency for two years.

I've left Klopp and Liverpool until last. A lot of people were surprised when I picked them for the title and I think there was enough on show in their game against Arsenal to make me happy about my choice.

For a blistering half-hour, we caught more than a glimpse of what Klopp wants from his team. They overwhelmed Arsenal.

In many ways, Klopp is something of a one-trick pony but it's a hell of a trick.

He wants his players at it all the time. His thinking is simple. Go, go and then go again and when it is working, it is very hard for any team to resist.

Freedom

Klopp gives his players the freedom to do this and backs them to attack at all costs, even when it was obvious that Liverpool still have problems at the back.

Less problems than Arsenal on the day and judging by Arsene Wenger's face throughout the game, he is already feeling the pressure.

If I was Wenger, I would eat humble pie and go and find a defensive coach.

I don't know whether Steve Bould is any good at coaching Arsenal's defenders but even if he is, Wenger is not listening to him and he badly needs to.

He has a mental block about this aspect of his team and he will never see what is patently obvious to everyone else.

I fear for him in the next few months.

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